Sunday, 13 March 2016

13 Mar: Sunday ride to Newmarket and Chippenham

Nigel writes: Spring arrived today, a week early. The day started foggy and cool, but the mist soon cleared and we enjoyed a day of gorgeous warm spring sunshine. By happy conincidence our route today was one of our most popular: a loop to the east of Cambridge, stopping for morning coffee in Newmarket and lunch in Chippenham. This is a route that Eva has led several times and, rather uniquely in our club, has made her own, and in continuance of recent tradition Eva was our leader today.

At the start at Brookside

Inevitably, the conjunction of a fine ride and the prospect of a fine day meant that there was a good turnout at Brookside: I counted eleven riders: Rupert, Edmund, Stan, English Seb, Sheila, David, Keith, John R, Jim, Eva and me. It was actually quite cold at 9.30am, and at this stage in the day it was still quite foggy, though we could see the sun trying to break through the mist and it was clear that once the fog had cleared we were due for a lovely day.

Parker's Piece, Cambridge with the spire of the Catholic Church disappearing into the mist

We set off and Eva led us across Parker's Piece, down to Midsummer Common and then east out of the city along the river.

Stourbridge Common, Cambridge

At Ditton Meadows we left the river and turned onto the Wadloes Path towards Fen Ditton. The fog was taking longer to burn off than I expected and, when we reached Fen Ditton, Eva suggested we stop and turn on our lights before continuing east to Quy and Bottisham.

High Ditch Road, Fen Ditton

Just as putting on raingear can make the rain stop, turning on our bike lights seemed to have the desired effect and by the time we reached Bottisham the fog began to lift, leaving just a picturesque layer of mist visible above the fields between Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck.

On the narrow B1102 cyclepath between the Swaffhams

Our route to Newmarket today took us along the "old" NCN 51. This route is now signposted via the Lodes Way, but today we followed its original route via the Swaffhams, Reach and Burwell, after which the new and old routes converge for the final few miles to Exning and Newmarket.

A pause in Swaffham Prior


Between Reach and Burwell

We reached Newmarket at about 11.15am and stopped for coffee at Coffee and Co. As expected there were quite a few members already in the cafe, including Alex, Geoff, Adrian, Li, Edward, Joseph and probably a few more. This is a nice cafe in an excellent back-street location (directly on NCN 51), but the pleasure of a visit is always offset by the rather disorganised and slow service. One day, perhaps, the staff will realise that if they take down your name when you place your order they will find it much easier to deliver the food and drink to the right person. Despite that I think everything went reasonably well today and after about 45 minutes we were ready to press on with the next part of the ride.

Preparing to set off after coffee in Newmarket

As usual, several riders left the group and other joined it, leaving about a dozen riders for the rode on to Lunch in Chippenham. Eva phoned ahead to notify the cafe of the numbers and was advised that there would be more space if we arrived a little later than usual. This was not a problem for us. Quite the opposite: by now the sun was shining brightly and the prospect of an extra loop before lunch was most appealing.


There are lots of roads out of Newmarket, but the finest is definitely the road to Moulton. This long but gentle climb leads east up Warren Hill, with racehorse training grounds on both sides, and fine views back towards the town.

Climbing out of Newmarket on Warren Hill

At the summit of Warren Hill

I tend to think of Eva's rides as being totally flat, but to the east of Newmarket there are two quite significant hills: this first hill between Newmarket and Moulton, and then, after the packhorse bridge and dry ford in Moulton, another hill between there and Gazeley.

Moulton, from the old packhorse bridge

At Gazeley we turned north and from then on we saw no further hills for the remainder of the ride. Eva led us north through Kentford and Herringswell to the edge of Barton Mills. Here we crossed the busy A11. Although we used an official, signposted at-grade crossing point we had to wait for several minutes for a safe gap in the traffic before riding across.


We continued through Worlington and Freckenham to Chippenham, where we stopped for lunch at La Hogue. This farm shop cafe is an established club favourite: it's in a nice location, the food is good, and the service is fast and efficient - and today it was warm enough (just) to be able to sit outside.

The farm road around Chippenham Park

After lunch we set off back towards Cambridge. We were now riding west and a light tailwind sped our journey to Snailwell, Exning and along the B1103 to Burwell. On the outskirts of Burwell Eva and the others turned west towards Reach with the intention of joining the Lodes Way. I, however, was keen to avoid crossing our outward route and achieve a more elegant GPS track by continuing north from Burwell to join the Lodes Way at the bridge over Burwell Lode, just west of Wicken Fen.

Seb enjoying the afternoon sunshine beside Burwell Lode

For this extra loop I was accompanied by French Seb, and we enjoyed a very pleasant trundle through the fens before eventually catching up with the others on the outskirts of Cambridge. I arrived home at 4.30pm, having cycled 66 miles.

Download GPS track (GPX).

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